ORLANDO, Fla. — The rivalry travels; this much J.J. Redick knows.
The seventh-year NBA shooting guard is enjoying his best season with the Orlando Magic. He is averaging 14.4 ppg, almost six more than his career average. Still, he knows his NBA accomplishments are mere background noise — there is no escaping his Duke legacy. He gets heckled in Charlotte not because of anything he has done to the Bobcats, but rather because of where he went to school.
“I hear it all the time,” Redick said. “I hear it from just the most random places. The other day I was walking down Park Avenue and a guy yelled from across the street, ‘Go Heels!’ Some people don’t get over it. Some people don’t move on. I’ve moved on, believe it or not.”
In a recent conversation Redick discussed his steady progress in the NBA, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry and his reaction when Austin Rivers hit The Shot.
Q: We’ll get to Duke in a minute, but let’s talk about your year. What’s different this year?
A: It’s been my goal every year I’ve been in the NBA to improve. I always feel if you’re improving and getting better, then you’re going to keep a job. Obviously my playing time has gone up a little bit, but offensively, not having Dwight (Howard) has allowed other guys to just get more touches.
Q: Your game is evolving, too. It’s not just a matter of minutes or shots …
A: I have tried to improve. Some of the sets that we run now are more conducive to my game … (Magic coach) Jacque (Vaughn) has put me in a position to make plays for other guys, too.
Q: How much better are you now than what people remember at Duke?
A: (Laughing …) I mean, I’m a lot better. If I hadn’t gotten better, I still wouldn’t be in the NBA. You have to improve. It’s something I take pride in. It’s a good goal to have for your life, in general, is self-reflection, self-examination, how can I get better, how can I improve.
Q: Now, let’s talk about one of our favorite subjects, Duke-Carolina …You’ve mentioned how the 1992 Duke team got you going in their direction …
A: Yep. Sure.
Q: Was Carolina ever in the mix in terms of recruiting?
A: They came to a couple of tournaments to see a couple of players … I committed pretty early to Duke … They had Rashad McCants at the time. It was pretty much Duke for me.
Q: You said, even now, you hear Duke-Carolina all the time. Is it still the best rivalry you’ve been a part of?
A: Oh, definitely. That’s one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. It’s an absolute honor to be a part of it. I have great respect for the University of North Carolina … To be on the other side and represent Duke in that rivalry is a huge point of pride with me.
Q: If we played an NBA game with Duke-Carolina alumni right now, who wins?
A: (Pauses several seconds). I think right now, Duke. We’re a little younger … Kyrie (Irving) is playing at an All-Star level right now. Luol (Deng) has been an All-Star. C-Booz (Carlos Boozer) … we’ve got a lot of good players. We’ll let Grant (Hill) continue to rest. (More laughter). He can be the honorary player/coach in that game.
Q: Do you guys talk about the rivalry now that you’re in the NBA?
A: There’s always the $20 bet, or ‘I get your per diem next road trip’ type thing about the game. You might say something to a Carolina guy right after the game but not a whole lot. The only guy I’ve heard that really has a problem with Duke guys is George Karl. That’s the knock against him.
Q: This year’s team, No. 1, off to a great start. Can they hang another banner?
A: I like the team from what I’ve seen … They have great guard play. Their guys have all improved in some way or another and adding Rasheed (Sulaimon) as a freshman, a dynamic player on the wing, helps. To me they’re your typical Duke Final Four team. Obviously, college being a one-and-done format, you can never solidly predict what’s going to happen in March, but they have all the makings of a championship-level Duke team.
Q: Last year’s game, Austin’s shot goes down … did you see it? What was your reaction?
A: We actually played that night … So I was actually in the cold tub afterwards, and my Twitter timeline all of the sudden went nuts with the shot. I didn’t get to see it live, but that’s one of the top five or 10 Duke-Carolina moments in the last 15 years.
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